In the late 19th century, early cinema allowed many illusionists and magicians to shift from stage to film, most notably Houdini and Méliès. ‘Évasion’ appropriates optical effects from this period, creating a contemporary version of illusionism in an immersive media environment. Like the early cinematic technologies for conjuring onscreen appearance and disappearance, ‘évasion’ uses new media optics to probe whether onscreen action narrative really unfolds before our eyes.
8 cameras surround an escape artist and film his performance. Submerged in water, he attempts to unshackle himself from a straightjacket. The installation itself echoes the film shoot with 8 vertically positioned flat screens recreating his holding ‘tank’. As the audience circumnavigates the installation, his escape unfolds from conflicting perspectives. Each screen plays back its own angle and tempo of events. The circumnavigation promises to reveal how the escape ‘works’. But the installation is a perceptual illusion; more of the escape unfolds yet less of the trick is revealed. The overall aesthetic evokes a slightly sinister and Dickensian atmosphere.
‘Évasion’ uses innovative locative sound design, which usually positions audio at particular spatial coordinates and responsively reproduces this audio when the audience is physically present in the same place. Instead, ‘évasion’ will deploy locative sound inversely; the soundscape will seem to precede the presence of audience members circulating around the installation. Sensors will detect audience position and trigger audio to travel ahead of the listeners’ position. Like the escape artist, the soundscape always escapes from the audience. The overall aesthetic will be that of direct and fully present perception promising to unfold yet persistently escaping.
Here’s how the work looked at UTS Gallery, Sydney, 2014. We’re really happy with the results, especially the beautiful octagon/tardis structure we designed that was built by Bart Groen of Objet B’art.
We went the extra mile and also created our own customised praxinoscope to sit directly outside the space in which évasion is installed. This helps to contextualise the work and its relation to pre-cinema practices. But it’s also a really beautiful object in itself and takes the animation aspects of the moving image somewhere else!